Posts Tagged: California
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The Legend of Poison Jim, the Mustard King

In the Museum of Chinese in America, two blocks north of Canal Street in New York City, a small, illuminated tile informs visitors that “sometime before 1865,” a Chinese American squirrel trapper known as “Poison Jim” found the mustard plant “growing weedlike in the Salinas Valley.” By selling the seeds, he “unintentionally turn[ed] mustard into a commercial crop” in the United States. A textbook published in 2010 repeats the story, with Poison Jim making and selling mustard until it “became a major California product.”

“Poison Jim Chinaman” was first documented by the little-known writer Owen Clarke Treleaven, who published a six-page story about him in a 1919 [...]

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Cures for Afflicted Children

In an age of disease, child labor has consequences. An eleven-year-old tasked with cleaning the bathrooms at LeConte Elementary School came down with whooping cough as a result, according to his mother. As she points out, “bathrooms are health hazards,” particularly ones in elementary schools, which are essentially factories that specialize in the production of terrible and exotic diseases.

The child’s mother does not note, curiously, that according to numbers from the Department of Public Health, four percent of students at LeConte Elementary were exempted by their parents from getting vaccinations for whooping cough. Hrm. Fortunately, there are plenty of remedies for [...]

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This Is An Ad By Dr. Seuss, It Will Cost More Than A Caboose (If You Say His Name Wrong)

After receiving twenty-seven rejection letters, Theodor Seuss Geisel published his first children’s book in 1937. But And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street wasn’t going to pay the bills during the Great Depression.

Still, Geisel’s wife, Helen, encouraged the thirty-three-year-old, who'd left Oxford without taking a degree, to pursue an artistic career—which he did, just as practically as he could. Geisel spent his days at the New York City-based humor magazine Judge, and worked on his children’s books during off hours.

But really he was, by then, an ad man. In 1928, the wife of a Standard Oil executive was thumbing [...]

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Will Drones Be Banned In This Rich Desert Suburb?

Rancho Mirage sits between Palm Springs and the Coachella festival. The people are rich and generally Republican—the moderate show-biz GOP reigns in this land of Gerald and Betty Ford, Dwight Eisenhower, Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono and his widow, the longtime congresswoman Mary Bono Mack. And now this fancy desert resort town is deciding whether to ban aerial drones from the skies, which would make Rancho Mirage only the second town in the nation to outlaw the robot spy planes. (The first is tiny St. Bonifaciuis, Minnesota; a Virginia city passed a resolution "urging" the state to do something about drones.)

It would be wonderful to realize our rich citizens [...]

5

Wealthy Drug Dealers and Vulture Capitalists Will Soon Have the Housing Market To Themselves

"Fewer Americans signed contracts to purchase previously owned homes in February as limited inventory and access to credit held back a more robust recovery in housing." —Are $950,000 fixers and impossible lending standards and the need for quarter-million down payments with no-contingency bidding-war offers possibly slowing the current idiotic real estate frenzy? Perhaps! But here is a proven fact: Whenever people are acting super stupid-crazy about any market, it is wise to stay the hell away from said market.

Photo by Jeremiahsb.

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Urban Jews Flee To iPhone-less Desert Wilderness For Passover

As a non-Jew who watched The Ten Commandments every Easter/Passover as a child and occasionally marries into Jewish families as an adult, I have been deeply disappointed with the reality of American Passover Seders. Expecting buckets of lamb blood for door painting and ominous bearded nomads reciting death tales from memory, instead I got people talking about college basketball around a glass-and-bronze dinette set piled high with unsavory seasonal items from the supermarket. That nobody at the table really believed in G-d never helped, either. How is He going to strike us all dead when he doesn't even exist?

While there's a lot more interesting food options for Pesach today—[...]

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Life After Patch.com: A Newspaper Editor Returns To Newsprint

Patch.com was launched in 2007 when Tim Armstrong, the man who turned Google into an advertising company, noticed his very wealthy Connecticut bedroom community lacked a local paper with an events calendar. When Armstrong became head of AOL in 2009 with the mission of transforming the company from a fading dial-up service to a media brand, he sold Patch to his new employers. There are 850 Patch sites, supposedly hyperlocal news operations run by modestly paid newspaper journalists and supposedly supported by neighborhood advertising.

Because the Internet is mostly a garbage factory and AOL produces a great deal of Internet content, it stands to reason that much of AOL's content [...]

2

A Novel for the End of the (Publishing) World

Edan Lepucki’s novel, California, will launch next week as one of the most pre-ordered debuts in the history of the publisher Little, Brown. It has become, in recent weeks, an unintentional emblem of the war that Amazon is currently waging on Little, Brown’s parent company, Hachette, as the focus of a campaign by Stephen Colbert to “not lick [Amazon’s] monopoly boot” by pre-ordering it from independent bookstores. In some ways, it’s a fitting choice, since it tells the story of a couple, Frida and Cal, making their way in the world after the collapse of society as we know it. But it’s about much more—love, marriage, [...]

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The Uber Diaries

I'm not supposed to drive or bike anymore, so when I discovered rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, my life became much easier. I usually try to talk to my drivers. Here are a few of their stories.

Abram. Wednesday night.

Just before nine o’clock on Wednesday evening is the most stressful time of the week. Easy to feel un-buoyed. Abram had been smoking in his car. That, or he just hopped into the driver’s seat, mid-cigarette, as soon as he got my call. He was maybe sixty-five, seventy tops. Mostly bald, with thick glasses and shadowy eyes. His English was not great; he spoke with a heavy slavic [...]

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Are The Startup Fellas Hellbent On Destroying Education Even Literate?

Lost in the maelstrom of sadness, confusion and malaise that marks our annual observance of September 11th was a Medium post by Udacity's new Director of Mobile Engineering, one Oliver Cameron.

Here's the opening paragraph of Cameron's post, "The Story of Building an Education Startup".

Most revolutionary companies aren’t born with the intent to change the world, yet there I was trying to do exactly that. I was on the verge of starting my third company, and I wanted to do something truly special. I listed all of the industries I thought I could have an impact in, and quickly became fixated on education. It’s a market that [...]

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The Rise and Fall of the L.A. Examiner, a Blog That Was a Newspaper That Never Existed

My office was the living room closet in a huge one-bedroom in a 1920s East Hollywood apartment court, across the street from the big blue Scientology headquarters in the old Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. There were built-in bookshelves and just enough space for a chair and a laptop and an ashtray. The neighbor lady's rescued pit bulls romped outside in the overgrown garden, and that electric L.A. sunlight came filtered through the grimy old French windows to the hardwood floors. It was a very pleasant place to work, my friends lived within walking distance in other cheap apartments in Los Feliz, and I had a bad case of being in [...]

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Brave Heroes Denied $1.3 Million Reward For Finding Killer Cop

When the ex-LAPD supervillain Christopher Dorner rampaged across Southern California last month, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a million-dollar reward for information leading to Dorner's capture. Three brave heroes who survived their encounters with Dorner have since claimed the reward, but the stingy governments and groups who offered the money now refuse to pay because Dorner somehow didn't survive an army of cops roasting and demolishing the mountain cabin he holed up inside for his last stand.

Jim and Karen Reynolds survived a real-life crappy thriller movie when Dorner tied them up and held them prisoner in their nearby vacation cabin, and Rick Heltebrake lived through a harrowing carjacking [...]

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"Daily Show" Writer Jason Ross On Writing For Free and Breaking Into Comedy

Since 2002, Jason Ross (@jasonjross on Twitter) has been a writer for "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart," where his team has won a half-dozen Emmy Awards for outstanding writing and produced the best-selling America: The Book and Earth: The Book.

Jason Ross: Here I am.

Ken Layne: Hello, sir! I'm in the middle of the greatest consumer survey in human history.

Jason: That is a fairly low bar to clear.

Ken: Disneyland is building Star Wars Land. This will make Disneyland much more tolerable for me:

Which of the following Star Wars locations would you be especially interested in visiting at the Disneyland Resort? [...]

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Christopher Dorner Crime Tourism: Big Bear, LA's Mountain Getaway

Unless he is actually the Terminator, alleged maniacal killer and ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner died yesterday in a burning vacation cabin near the Southern California mountain resort town of Big Bear. And for the first time in probably forever, Big Bear is at the top of the news. As often happens when little-known places make the headlines, cable news hosts struggled to understand the mysterious place—did it have access to television or the Internet?—and people on Twitter mocked the confusion of the cable news hosts, while Big Bear residents used Twitter to say things like, "I was literally looking at the house Chris Dorner was at from the [...]

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A Morning in Isla Vista

I don’t remember much about that first time I drove through Isla Vista, except that it wasn’t what I had expected. Our parents told us that it had a higher rate of STDs than anywhere else in the country, and that it accounted for one percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. Isla Vista, just a dozen exits north on the 101—a shorthand for danger and debauchery. But it was just beachy and grimy, pleasant and closer to whatever I imagined the real world was supposed to be like. There were palms and eucalyptus trees, and I saw a passed out man face down on a beat-up couch [...]

1

California Dry

"'We have been rationing severely. No plants get watered. That's over. Turned off the toilet. I haven't washed my hair for two weeks,' said Willits resident Andrea Onstad, who was washing her car Monday afternoon. A few blocks down at Gribaldo's diner on the city's Main Street, customers sat at tables with no water glasses. A sign on the wall warned of the drought emergency — water was only available upon request. Things are so scarce that the sheriff's office is on alert for water bandits." –No, this isn't another story about subpar travel accommodations for sportswriters in Sochi. This is Willits, California, in the far northwestern corner of [...]

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Kendrick Lamar, "B*tch Don't Kill My Vibe"; Rahsaan Roland Kirk, "I Say A Little Prayer"

There's been plenty written about how great Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar's album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city is. So much that I'm left with feeling like I have little of value to add to any conversation about it. But the video for "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe," came out today and it inspired in me a thought(!) First of all, it's really good. Watch it. Secondly, jumping back and forth in tone as it does, it makes a nice point about how complex everything is—death, religion, fashion, mourning, partying, solitude, unity, nature, all this stuff. All sorts of paradox. Which starts to come as close to truth, I think, [...]

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How To Build A Subterranean Breakfast Nook Where You Can Cook Up Some Worms And Salamanders

Hippies: Are they good for anything at all? Well, yes, it turns out. If you want a comfy little place to eat breakfast in the woods in Bolinas, California, hippies are the folks to make it for you. These two, Sean Hellfritsch and Rob Wilson might handle cooking duties, too. Although the editing of this video (and this is my favorite part of this video) implies that what you'll be eating is fried salamander. (I hope they brought lots of ketchup.) The music gets really funny when they find a mushroom, too. It's like seraphim singing in heaven. (Have you seen Kelly Reichardt's Old Joy? If [...]

6

Bay Area Real Estate Agents Are Kind of Making Fun of You

"'Asking prices' are not that at all. They are 'marketing prices.' Buyers should never reflexively assign any validity to the price advertised on any particular property. Listing agents purposely under price their properties for sale and set an offer date. 'Why?' individuals may ask. They do it because it works." —Are you in the market for buying a home in the San Francisco Bay Area? Sorry to hear about that.

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Writer Would Prefer You Not Mention Where She Lives, Because Categories Trouble Her

"Of all the things I’ve been called in my time, the one that surprises me the most is 'California Writer.' When I hear that, I look over my shoulder, certain that the phrase must apply to the writer behind me or to my left. It’s the way I feel when I am addressed by my husband’s last name. It takes me a moment to realize his mother is not in the room. Categories trouble me."